Behind the scenes at the Quarry

A few weeks ago we made one of our annual visits to Birkhams Quarry, just outside Whitehaven.

As part of their planning permission the quarry operator is required to restore areas of the quarry once they have finished being worked for stone.

At the end of 2016 topsoil from elsewhere on site was spread over the first area of restoration.  The decision was made not to use plug plants or seed the restoration area but to let it vegetate naturally using the seeds already in the topsoil.

This summer we’ve worked at the site with local volunteers doing a variety of jobs recording the species we find on site and beginning to remove plants such as bracken, nettle, dock and thistle.  If left unchecked these could become dominant and shade out the wildflowers and grasses we want to encourage. The restoration area is developing nicely and the variety of species that have already established is encouraging.

On our last visit in June 2018 we found:

Agrimony

Birds foot trefoil

Bluebell sp

Bracken

Bramble

Broad leaved dock

Burdock

Bush vetch

Catsear

Cocks foot

Common nettle

Common sorrel

Creeping thistle

Creeping buttercup

Devils bit scabious

Foxglove

Germander speedwell

Gorse

Herb Robert

Hogweed

Hop trefoil

Lesser celandine

Meadow foxtail

Ragwort

Ribwort plantain

Sheep sorrel

Silverweed

Spear thistle

Speedwell sp

Tormentil

White clover

Wood vetch

Willowherb sp

 

Blaze destroys important wildlife area at St Bees Head

Firefighters were recently called out to tackle a large blaze on the South Head at St Bees, which has damaged an important area for nesting birds and wildlife.

An area the size of around four football pitches has been destroyed following the fire which broke out on the evening of 12 June. The area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so is an important place for wildlife. The gorse and heath habitat that has been burned was home to a variety of nesting birds, plants and butterflies that have been badly affected by the fire.

Dave Blackledge, RSPB Site Manager for St Bees Head said: “This is a stark reminder of how easily fire can spread following the dry conditions we have had in the past few weeks. Whilst unintentional, the consequences can be devastating for wildlife. Around 30 nests of birds such as stonechat, linnet and whitethroat, which breed on St Bees Head, have been lost to the blaze, and it is likely many of the adult birds were unable to get away from it too.

“The site is also home to some unusual plants like bloody cranesbill and a range of butterflies such as wall brown and large skipper that have all been affected by this incident. Thankfully the fire did not reach the 25,000 thousand strong seabird colony that St Bees is famous for, as the majority of those breed on the RSPB reserve on the North Head. However, a careless act can do a lot of harm, and we ask that all those visiting the site are respectful of the habitat and the wildlife here to avoid future problems.”

Kate Doughty from Natural England, who oversee Sites of Special Scientific Interest, said: “It will take many years for burnt the clifftop habitats at St Bees to recover and there is a risk that some of the special rare plants that grow there may never return. We are all extremely relieved that the seabird colony avoided a similar fate, thanks to the fantastic job performed by the firefighters from Cumbria Fire and Rescue.”

St Bees Head fire

You may have heard or seen on the news that there was a fire on St Bees Head overnight on Tuesday 12th June.  This has caused a large amount of damage to the area.  The RSPB, who own much of the land, have released the following statement:

“We are currently unable to get access to the site as it had been closed off by the police. Consequently, we don’t know the extent of the damage caused by the fire on the South Head at St Bees. 

Our understanding is that a large area of gorse and heath on the southern part of the reserve has been destroyed, which will have affected birds including stone chats and linnets, as well as a range of butterflies.

However, we are we are hopeful that the seabird colony is unaffected as the majority of these birds nest on the North Head.

We will be able to ascertain the full extent of the damage once we are permitted onsite.

We would like to say a huge thanks to the fire fighters who tackled the blaze.”

Once we have any more information we will update the website.

 

Wildflower workshop

Next week we have another workshop in our Nature Recorders series. We’ll be joining forces with Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre once again to deliver this workshop on wildflower and plant identification. Come along and learn how to identify wildflowers using a key, books, and hand lens. The workshop is free but booking is essential, contact sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk